One of the key drivers behind the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) segment is the emergence of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOL), with dozens of these aircraft seeking certification around the world.
Whilst the Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) found on most of these aircraft necessitates entirely new flight control models to be developed it also holds the promise of safety, reliability and reduced noise and maintenance vs turbine / piston engine powered predecessors.
Beyond established aerospace stalwarts like Airbus and Boeing we're also seeing new entrants with their roots in the tech sector - the likes of Uber, Joby and Kitty Hawk are leveraging technologies more commonly found in self-driving cars and pushing towards a world where fully autonomous flying taxis are the norm.
REGULATION & CERTIFICATION
Where Silicon Valley meets aerospace boundaries are being pushed and vast amounts of capital deployed, but in aviation regulatory hurdles are high - the cost of failure is much higher when you're moving people rather than just bytes of information.
As such the likes of the FAA and EASA will have a huge role to play in enabling (or perhaps preventing) some of the more ambitious forecasts and visions for a world connected by Urban Air Mobility services.
Whilst no eVTOL is yet certified for passenger operations, it is sure to happen, and sooner than many in the aviation industry might think. The next challenge will be airspace integration - and the likes of NASA and EUROCONTROL will prove to be important arbiters for aircraft operators dreaming of large scale and high frequency operations
Whilst modern airliners are highly automated they are far from autonomous, with most decision making still being firmly in the hands of human pilots.
Several vehicle manufacturers in the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) space have already stated that their ambition is to transition from piloted to remote-piloted and then fully autonomous air vehicles operating with passengers on-board.
Whilst the pathway to full autonomy will be a tricky one we can already see technologies and operating procedures being adopted in commercial drone and self-driving car outfits that show us the direction that might be taken. From LIDAR imaging hardware to intelligent computer vision systems powered by machine learning - there are a whole suite of technologies and approaches that are paving the way.